First-time Visitor Guide to Milan, Italy


More than any other city in Italy, Milan, with a city proper population of 1.3 million and metropolitan area population of 4 million, is a thriving, international, cultural, commerce center. While Rome is the place to see what remains of the old Roman civilization, Milan is where you’ll find sophisticated, modern Italy. Cutting-edge fashion boutiques, trendy restaurants, world-acclaimed performing arts venues and art museums are the beating heart of this city. A shopping trip along Via Manzoni will take just about any fashionista’s breath away, and the La Scala Opera House is the best in the world. Milan is a city of emotions, but getting to know its inner core takes time. Before arrival, make sure to book a theater performance, study the restaurant scene, and be sure to set your sights on a vitsit to some of the best fashion houses in the world.

In this article, I’m going to focus on the practicalities of the city, but keep your eyes peeled: The next three articles will focus on What To See In Milan, Where To Eat In Milan, and Where To Stay In Milan (including some of the most luxurious hotels in the world).

Milan is located in the Lombardy region, which borders Switzerland. It is the richest and most populated region in Italy; and Milan’s historical sights – even if they play second fiddle to its modern establishments – are one of a kind. Its Duomo (primary cathedral) is far and away the most impressive in all of Italy; its plethora of spires reach skyward with a hundred points each.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s fresco, The Last Supper, is found in a monestary in the center of Milan. Castello Sforzesco, the grounds of which are free to visit, is evocative of medieval times. And strange but true, Milan’s main cemetery is also worth a peek.

Also check out our post on where to stay in Milan.

Getting to Milan

Milan’s largest airport, which accommodates most international flights, is Malpensa Airport (MXP). Trains run from the airport to the city center regularly during the day, cost 11.50 euros, and take about one hour. Buses and shuttles run when the train does not. All trains arrive in Milan’s Central Station, located in the northeast corner of the city. Unless traveling with very little luggage, taxis provide the best option to your hotel.

The following is a list of travel times, by train, to nearby cities: Zurich, Switzerland – four hours; Turin, Italy – one to two hours; Rome, three hours; Paris, France – seven hours. The train-ride over the Alps and into Italy is one of the most beautiful in all of Europe.

Milan’s Inner-City Transportation

All major sights and activities can be seen on foot as the city center is small. The trams, which run above ground and reminded me of some of the old-time trolley cars found in San Francisco, are easy and fun. Buy a single ride or a day pass at any of the tobacco shops (called tabacchi) then hop aboard. Make sure to validate your ticket in the yellow machines on the trams.
If you want to reach locations just outside of the city center, the Metro (subway) is your best choice. The tickets are the same for the Metro, the trams, and the buses.

Do It Yourself  vs. Organized Tours

If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance that you want to tour the city yourself, and with these guides you’ll be ready. Milan’s sights are all close, making it a great city for do-it-yourselfers. Few sights – excluding the immensely popular Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper – require reservations. The most important areas of the city are Piazza Duomo, the area around Teatro Dal Verme, the sprawling Parco Semprione park, the shopping district around Via Manzoni, and the area around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Guided tours can fill in the details of the city and sometimes come with impressive discounts at shops and restaurants. We recommend Viator because it offers more than 20 different tours in and around Milan. From city tours, to Last Supper visits to private appointments at leading fashion boutiques and outlets, Viator has you covered.

In the next post, we’ll investigate Milan’s best sights.

Written by Mattie Bamman for

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